The Coasean Republic - Credit Slips
"At times I've joked to my classes about the possibility of a Coasean Republic, a state I call "Coase-istan" (or perhaps Kosistan), in which the entire world operates via private ordering. In Coase-istan, government does, well, nothing except put service provision out for private bids. Mail would be delivered only by private express companies like Fed-Ex. Prisons would be privately operated. Executions would be contracted out to the highest bidder. Food and drug safety would be policed solely by private litigation, which would, of course, all go to arbitration. Deposits would be privately insured, if at all. Taxes would be collected by tax farmers. The borders of the Coasean Republic would be protected by an army of mercenaries. Health care or transportation? Pay your own way. Want to buy a baby or enter a lifetime personal service contract? Go right ahead...Now, it turns out that the joke's on me. Sandy Springs, Georgia is well on its way to becoming the Coasean Republic. Well, let's hope that Tiebout competition works."
This is blog post on Credit Slips from law professor Adam Levitin, who is one of the sharpest analysts out there. What he calls "The Coasean Republic," I call "privatopia." Ronald Coase invented the Coase Theorem, which is at the root of much libertarian thinking. The theorem supports the notion that government regulation of externalities is less efficient than private payments. Externalities are the costs of a transaction that are not born by the parties to the transaction, but instead are imposed on others. A hog farmer grows and sells hogs and we eat bacon. But anybody living near the hog farm has to deal with the air and water pollution. The way Coase looked at it, instead of the government enacting a zoning law that prohibits you and your neighbors from setting up backyard hog farms, you should be free to do that unless your neighbors care enough about it to pay you not to do it. So CC&Rs are better than zoning ordinances because they were individually negotiated by the neighbors to create the little private utopia that they enjoy so much, free from the meddlesome and inefficient interference of government. Get it? No? You disagree? Well--Coase got a Nobel Prize, and as Fred Pilot would say, "So there!"